Sunday 22 January 2017

Hundreds pay respects to friends who shared passion for 'cruel' sea

Published 24/08/2010 | 05:00

WOLFGANG 'Mike' Schmidt and Wolfgang Schroder shared much more than a name.

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The two friends were foreigners in an adopted land and their lives were intertwined by the shared passion for the sea that would cruelly claim their lives.

Yesterday, the hearses carrying the remains of the two sea captains slowly made their way side-by-side through the picturesque village of Glengarriff.

Though natives of northern Germany, each man was quickly accepted by locals as one of their own, their joint funeral mass heard. Both men died alongside Adrigole native Richard Harman (69) when the motor cruiser on which they set out on an angling trip from Bere Island caught fire, exploded and then sank last Monday.

The sole survivor, Edward 'Ed' Dziato (46), yesterday helped carry the coffins of his friends to a joint funeral service for the two German sea captains whose idyllic retirement ended in tragedy.

Mr Dziato, a native of Connecticut in the US, has been hailed as a hero for his desperate attempts to help his three elderly companions in the freezing seas until they were rescued by the Irish Coastguard.

Hundreds gathered to pay their last respects to Mr Schmidt (64) and Mr Schroder (60) yesterday at the joint service at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Glengarriff, Co Cork.

The coffins of the two German nationals rested side-by-side in the church before they were carried shoulder high to waiting hearses for private cremation ceremonies in Cork.

Parish priest Fr Padraig Kennelly said both men died in the sea to which they had devoted their working lives.

Jokes

"Last Monday was a good day when four friends got together -- it was supposed to be a day for fishing, for jokes, for fun and to be out at sea, free," he said.

"The sea was somewhere that Mike and Wolfgang had given their lives to. Wolfgang had dreamed of being a seaman since he was a boy growing up in Germany. He was a much respected sea captain."

"Mike joined the (German) merchant navy when he was 14 years old and became a master mariner, spending 45 years at sea. On the wall of his study is a world map with pins showing all the places he had visited in the world. He was a true cosmopolitan -- the sea was his life and his love after his family," Fr Kennelly added.

"(But) the sea can be a great friend and a devastating enemy -- it has given life and taken life here in the south-west."

Fr Kennelly said the entire community was numbed by the loss of three such popular and respected men -- who he said were "cruelly taken from us".

Mr Schmidt, a native of Husum near Schleswig in northern Germany, had been resident in Glengarriff since his retirement.

Mr Schroder, a native of Hitzacker near Luneburg in northern Germany, had been living at Saskia outside Bantry.

The mourners yesterday included locals, neighbours, fellow sailors as well as members of the tight-knit German ex-pat community in west Cork.

Mr Schmidt had been holidaying and living in the Glengarriff area for almost 40 years.

The mourners were led by his wife, Ina, and sailing friends from Glengarriff and Bere Island.

Mr Schroder had been honoured by the British and Belgian governments for his heroism in 1987 when the ship he commanded was the first vessel on the scene of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster. A total of 193 people died in that tragedy, but dozens were saved thanks to Captain Schroder and his crew.

Twin investigations into the tragedy are now ongoing by gardai and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Irish Independent

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